Thus revealed, the creature buried its nose in the tire-tilled soil...
May 27, 2004
Sayonara, Angel.
Category: Serious … TV, Film, & DVDs

So I'm finally getting around to blogging about the series finale of "Angel" that aired on the 19th. (Wow, only a week ago? Guess I'm not as behind as I thought.) We've already heard a few words about it from Tina and Anon -- "What the hell was UP with that ending?!" and, "I loved the ending of Angel. Angel has always been about the shades of grey areas between good and evil. The point was that the battle against evil never ends, something they were saying in the episodes near the end of the series," respectively -- so I suppose I'll attempt to address some of their points and go from there... and I guess I'll start with Anon, since Tina's comment refers to the end, which I guess I'll talk about at the end. 🙂

First -- and this doesn't have as much to do with the ending as it does with Anon's interpretation of it, which I think is somewhat relevant -- I disagree with Anon's contention that "Angel has always been about the ... grey areas between good and evil." On the contrary, to my mind, the show has always been about drawing defined lines between good and evil, effectively denying the new-age "relativist" talk of shades of grey. In the past, every time one of the good guys compromised lofty ideals in order to get the job done -- letting the ends justify the means, as it were -- we've seen that character slip into a dark place that eventually the character is forced to reject, and then that usually leads to a couple of weeks in the doghouse and a lot of apologizing, if not serious consequences. We saw it in Season 2 with Angel's obsessive vendetta against Drusilla and the newly re-vamped Darla, we saw it in Season 4 with Wesley's dark turn and tristes with Lilah, and we saw it in Season 5 with Gunn's deal to keep his extensive knowledge of the law, among other places. In fact, one of the definitive bad guy speeches (I don't remember when it was or who said it, but I'm guessing it was Lilah in Season 2 or 3) involved the lawyers' desire to keep making the areas look greyer and greyer to Angel, such that eventually he would be clearly in the dark (I like that phrasing) and on their side. That was, I took it, the whole point of keeping Angel alive -- Wolfram & Hart and the Senior Partners have shown time and time again that they could've had Angel killed anytime they wanted, but instead they chose to have him around because of the pivotal role he'd play in the Apocalypse... because there was a chance that he'd end up playing for their team.

So I thought it was really problematic when Angel drank Drogan's blood and snapped his neck, and I thought it was kinda rotten that he had Lorne shoot Lindsey to death even after Lindsey agreed to help them and play for the good guys -- and apparently, if we're to believe his words to Lorne, went into it wholeheartedly. These are clear examples of "ends justify the means" actions, and we've all seen the dark roads that those lead down. What Angel said about Drogan may be true -- if he hadn't killed Drogan, they'd have killed them both -- but the old Angel would've stood there and fought it out before snapping the neck of a fellow hero, someone who even held him him as "an ally; a brother." Not that these difficulties went totally unaddressed, mind you -- Lorne's decision to bow out was, I thought, one of the few genuine things about the episode, and totally fitting considering that he was the only character who seemed to recognize the moral problems with Angel's final plan. However, given that Lorne's always been portrayed as a "weak" character, I think that perhaps the writers meant to suggest that Lorne didn't have the courage to go through with "fighting the good fight." If that's the case, maybe the writers of the show forgot the lessons of prior seasons and, for the sake of making a dark and somewhat depressing series finale (since Joss noted that he poured a lot of his anger about the show's cancellation into the script), decided to ignore what fighting the good fight really entailed.

And also, why kill Lindsey and let Harmony walk? Lindsey was helping; Harmony clearly showed herself to be evil. And granted that Angel's pretty handy with a stake, it would've been no problem for him to score a bullseye to the heart as she ran out of the place. If we're trying to tie up loose ends by killing the bad guys, let's make sure we do it already. But I'm just bitter because Harmony's shallow evil turn went against all of the nice things I said about her earlier.

So in trying to wrap up things neatly in the series finale, I think they not only ignored (in part) the spirit of the show and a number of plotholes still open from last season, but created a few more to boot. Never mind that we never got any real resolution between Fred and Gunn, never mind that things were getting pretty steamy between Gwen (remember, the electric Rogue clone) and Gunn at the end of one episode and we never found out what happened there -- they sure do like ignoring Gunn's subplots, don't they? -- never mind that that crap with Cordy's demon possession and the whole Jasmine thing was never fully explained, never mind that the first third or so of the season was entirely wasted with the ghostly Spike crap that never paid off, never mind that we never really got a history for Drogan and his connection to Angel and possibly Hamilton (not that we needed one, but it sure would've been nice), never mind that my darling Illyria didn't get nearly enough time to enthrall us with her eerie blue beauty, nor did we ever learn about her ancient relationship to the Senior Parners... never mind those things and a great deal more.

But recall that role Angel was supposed to have in the Apocalypse, and recall that that was pretty much the only reason that Wolfram & Hart kept Angel around at all. And then recall that at one point in this final episode, the members of the Black Thorn essentially had him sign away his prophetic role in the Apocalyptic battle. When this happened, I said, "Wha...?" Keep in mind that, following the first season, the Senior Partners' plans for Angel have centered around his involvement in that final battle. Why have him sign it away? It makes no sense! Of course, one could say that he was just signing away his chance to become human -- a likely explanation, though I'd submit that the events of prophecies tend to be linked -- but in any case I don't think nearly enough time was spent on this development for it to have had much of an impact whatsoever, and certainly not the kind of impact that a major turn like that should have had. It was half-hearted and half-assed and I didn't like it.

And finally we have the end, and here I agree with Tina's sentiment. Now, I also agree with Anon's comments here, and I agree that given another prevailing theme of "Angel" (and "Buffy", to a slightly lesser extent) -- that the battle against evil never really ends -- it was completely fitting that the series end in a cliffhanger instead of a cut-and-dry conclusion. However, having a gaggle of demons and a dragon rushing at the remaining heroes in an alleyway felt cheap and insincere -- an over-the-top thing done just to make people gasp once or twice and gawk at how cool it was. If I'd wanted to end it with a cliffhanger, I probably would've shown them standing around, waiting for the final battle, and nonchalantly panned to the sky. Once the characters were out of view, I'd have reddened the sky a bit -- possibly as a harbinger of DOOM TO COME, or possibly the early moments of the dawn -- and then the episode would've ended. Nice and subtle. But with the ending as it was, in addition to being a cheap pop, it raises a number of questions. For example, if the Senior Partners could send forth a horde of scrambling demons like this anytime they wanted -- and they wanted the Apocalypse, I presume -- why didn't they just do that in the first place and be done with it? Or if they really wanted Angel dead -- I assume these demons were coming to kill Angel, which is one of the reasons I think that his signature negated his significant part in the Apocalypse altogether (otherwise they probably wouldn't want to kill him) -- and could've conceivably worked their dark mojo without him in the picture, why wouldn't they have killed him ages ago? He seems like a wild card that you'd only keep around if he were absolutely necessary, IMHO. So yeah, I think it was a mistake to actually show what the Senior Partners were capable of in such a frenzied IN YO FACE kinda way, especially since all of their machinations up to this point have been so subtle and behind the curtain. They've literally been these larger-than-life forces -- they're "on another plane," even -- so to depict them "losing their cool," as it were, by abandoning their five years of careful planning to just sling a bunch of rabid demons in the face of the heroes was really cheap. CHEAP CHEAP CHEAP.

Come to think of it, given the power and untouchable nature of the Senior Partners and the subtlety, here's another way I might've ended the series, especially if they wanted to go out on a depressing note. While I like my previous suggestion, I might also have had the four heroes regrouping in the alley when confronted by a lone figure in a suit. His affiliation is clear, and without words the heroes raise their weapons and attack. In the course of a 3-5 minute battle, some valiant attempts are made, but ultimately he makes short work of them. I probably wouldn't have him kill anyone -- though that would make for some really depressing stuff (and if anyone died he'd have to kill everyone except Angel) -- but he'd definitely break a few bones and have them bloodied up and unconscious... all except for Angel. Angel would still be conscious, seated on the ground and leaning against the dumpster, blood pouring down his face and trying in vain to lift his arm to strike at the advancing figure. Finally, he does so -- and the enemy leans forward and catches his hand... in a handshake. "Hello, Angel..." he says. "I'm Jacob, your new liason to the Senior Partners." END SERIES.

Now, tell me that wouldn't rule! I should've been one of the "Angel" writers. 😛

Anyway, that pretty much sums up my more significant thoughts on the "Angel" finale. Granted, overall I liked it -- though merely liking the episode is quite different than thinking it is a good or fitting end -- and it sure as shit was better than that crap that was the "Buffy" series finale. (I've said it before, and I'll say it again -- "Buffy" should've ended with "The Gift", the Season 5 ender. That was the most logical and fitting place for the series to end, but alas, greed and kowtowing to fans who don't really care about the quality of the shows -- just give them Buffy anything and they'll eat it up and call it manna -- got the best of yet another series.) And while Wesley's death did feel like it was just there because somebody had to die, I guess it made the most sense for it to be him, especially with his "there's nothing I want" talk earlier in the episode. (Psssst, I'm still miffed about this Wes/Fred thing when Gunn was the one who literally killed a man for her, yet the writers all but forgot about wrapping up their thread...) The "lie to me" thing was kinda poignant, if not cliched. It was nice to see Angel and Connor reconciled at the end, and it was cool that Angel got to put on his vamp face one last time in a heroic battle -- when was the last time we saw that happen? -- and that, for once, his vampire nature was useful for more than just super strength and lookin' ugly. HE DRANKDEDED DA BLOOD AND GOT POWER FROM IT! So yeah, that was neat. I did like seeing Lorne bow out, though I'm not entirely sure the understandable reason for that meshes too well with what the writers were thinking there. Ah well.

So to sum up: I had a lot of problems with the "Angel" series finale -- while I agreed with a lot of the ideas and themes behind it, I thought that the execution and depiction of these were poor and half-heartedly written. But I still liked it. Didn't think it was good or a fitting ending for a more/less great five year run, but it was better than the "Buffy" ending. I like my ideas even better, though. ;P


P.S. WE STILL NEED ONE MORE PLAYER FOR THE FIVE QUESTIONS GAME!!! Mickey's in, so our five slots are finally filled. Now I've gotta get to work on those questions... so keep an eye out for 'em, players, for they will arrive in your inboxes SOON! Like in the next day or so. 🙂

-posted by Wes | 2:31 am | Comments (0)
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